Father Goose (1964)

Fifty-six years ago today, the film Father Goose premiered.

Title: Father Goose
Directed by: Ralph Nelson
Produced by: Robert Arthur
Written by: Peter Stone, Frank Tarloff
Based on: A Place of Dragons short story by S. H. Barnett
Starring: Cary Grant, Leslie Caron
Music by: Cy Coleman
Cinematography: Charles Lang
Edited by: Ted J. Kent
Production Company: Granox Productions
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Release date: December 10, 1964
Running time: 118 minutes
Country: United States
Language: English
Box office: $12.5 million

While the Royal Australian Navy evacuates Salamaua in February 1942 ahead of a Japanese invasion, Commander Frank Houghton (Trevor Howard) coerces an old friend, American beachcomber Walter Eckland (Cary Grant), into becoming a coast watcher for the Allies. Houghton escorts Eckland to deserted Matalava Island to watch for Japanese airplanes. To ensure Eckland stays put, Houghton sees to it that his own ship “accidentally” knocks a hole in Eckland’s launch while departing, so his only boat is a utility dinghy. To motivate Eckland, Houghton has his crew hide bottles of whisky around the island, rewarding each aircraft sighting (once it is confirmed) with directions to one of the bottles.

Houghton finds a replacement watcher, but Eckland has to retrieve him from nearby Bundy Island by dinghy. He instead finds eight civilians stranded there: Frenchwoman Catherine Freneau (Leslie Caron) and seven young schoolgirls under her care. She informs him that the man he came for was killed in an air raid. Eckland reluctantly takes the party back to Matalava with him, but there is no safe way for them to be evacuated.

The fastidious Freneau clashes repeatedly with the slovenly, uncouth Eckland; they call each other “Miss Goody Two Shoes” and “a rude, foul-mouthed, drunken, filthy beast”, respectively. In the end, though, he adjusts to her and the girls. She learns that Eckland had been a history professor before he chose life in the South Pacific. Afterwards, Eckland cares for Freneau after they mistakenly believe she has been bitten by a deadly snake. With nothing else to do, he gives her whisky; she gets drunk and speaks freely.

Now in love, the couple arrange to be married by a military chaplain over the radio, but strafing by a Japanese airplane interrupts the ceremony.

Since they have been detected, Houghton sends an American submarine to pick them up, but an enemy patrol boat shows up first. Leaving Catherine and the schoolgirls in his dinghy, Eckland takes his now-repaired launch out to lure the Japanese vessel beyond the surrounding reef so the submarine can torpedo it. The Japanese sink his boat, but the submarine sinks the patrol boat, and Eckland survives.

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